Bronx, NY—Fans of major league baseball have been waiting more than five months for their favorite sport to begin again. The stands at Yankee Stadium were filled on Monday afternoon, April 1, as the fans of the Bronx Bombers realized the announced date of Opening Day was not an April Fool’s joke. The stadium was clean and decorated as many in the seats dreamed of a 28th world’s championship for the Yankees. The crowd of 49,514 was a sell-out and the largest Opening Day attendance at the current Yankee Stadium.
A solemn ceremony commemorating a horrendous recent event was held before the game began. A commemorative ribbon honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was painted on the ground near each dugout. Each member of the Yankees and Red Sox wore a memorial ribbon pinned to his uniform. The two teams stood on the baselines as a moment of silence was observed.
A joint honor guard from the Newtown police and fire departments presented the colors. The National Anthem was performed by Constantine Meroulis of the Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by former Yankees player, manager and general manager Lou Piniella.
What did look differently than most fans would have imagined five months ago was the pinstriped bedecked players on the field. First baseman Mark Teixeira, shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, and centerfielder Curtis Granderson were not in the starting lineup, but were on the disabled list. Last year’s starting catcher Russell Martin and starting rightfielder Nick Swisher are wearing the uniforms of different major league clubs this year.
What was no surprise was the name of the starting pitcher of each team. CC Sabathia was on the mound for the Yanks. The powerful ace of the staff has been the opening day starter for the Yankees in all five of his years with the club. Jon Lester was making his third opening game start for the Red Sox. Sabathia is attempting to come back in 2013 from an elbow injury that required off-season surgery. Lester is attempting to rebound from a sub-par 2012 season.
Both pitchers hurled only five innings because of their high pitch count, Sabathia (102) and Lester (96). Each threw four scoreless innings, but ran into trouble in one frame.
The Red Sox batted around against Sabathia in the second. The visitors scored four runs on four singles and two bases on balls. Shortstop Jose Iglesias drove in the first run of the game with a bases loaded infield single. A two-out single by Shane Victorino, in his first game with Boston, knocked in two runs. The final run of the inning scored on a single by Dustin Pedroia.
Yankee skipper Joe Girardi assessed Sabathia’s problems in that fateful inning, “I think what hurt him that inning were the walks, especially the one to Bradley, when he [Sabathia] was ahead.” Sabathia also spoke of his performance with disappointment, “With two outs, you’re just a pitch away. I couldn’t make that pitch. I couldn’t stop the bleeding.” The dedicated player had no excuses, “Health wise, I felt fine. I’ll keep working in the bullpen and try to get better.”
Yankee batters did not cross the plate until the fourth inning. Kevin Youkilis, in his Yankee debut, led off with a double to left. Another ^Yankees newcomer, Vernon Wells, walked and Ichiro Suzuki singled to load the bases. A single to left by catcher Francisco Cervelli drove in two runs to cut the four run deficit in half.
A fifth Red Sox runner crossed the plate in the seventh without a base hit by the team. After two walks and a fly ball to right, Jackie Bradley, Jr., making his big league debut, knocked in his first major league run with a ground out to the infield.
The final three Red Sox runs were scored in the ninth inning off Joba Chamberlain in 0.2 innings.
As usually happens in Boston-New York contests, the game was a marathon. It did not conclude until 3 hours and 37 minutes elapsed.
The two teams will return to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night at 7 pm with Hiroki Kuroda on the mound for the Yanks and Clay Buchholz on the mound for Boston.